Behind the Scenes of Challenging Heights: from Intern to ICT teacher to Grants Officer

“I never knew that volunteering could be a good way to get experience that will then get you a job.”

Jonathan Anderson joined challenging heights in June of 2014 as part of the Advocates Programme. He learned about all aspects of CH, and then interned in the office with our Vice President and finance officer for about three months before he was hired on to teach ICT for our Youth Empowerment Programme. He taught computer skills and leadership training for two terms before he applied for and was offered the role as “Grants Officer,” and set up shop in the Advocacy Office at the Challenging Heights office in Sankor.

As grants officer, Jonathan has a few main focuses. Every day, he writes narrative reports for different funders, according to their interests. He says every project that Challenging Heights does has its own objectives and the donors want to receive detailed information about how their support is helping beneficiaries. He speaks with managers of our different departments to find stories of individuals impacted. They look at participants and how their life situations were before receiving help from Challenging Heights, and then, a year or so after their training. He measures the improvement and shares impact results.

Jonathan works with the finance team, sifting through budgets to see what programme areas need more funding as donors phase out, to see if current donors could help fill gaps, or know which grants to seek out for future funding.

Keeping track of sources of income, Jonathan pays close attention to which contracts are short-term or long-term and makes projections about which areas need more funding in the next year. He uses those projections to prioritize grant research and applications.

Jonathan is also charged with soliciting new funding sources, which he says, is the most critical part of his job, and the biggest challenge. He does enjoy the pressure to work harder to seek out worthwhile opportunities.

He says he gets ideas for new sources of funding from many areas, he has also gotten many ideas from websites like GoFundMe. When our president, Dr. James Kofi Annan, travels for speaking engagements and fundraisers in more developed countries, he will often come back with referrals for grants that could interest Challenging Heights. Jonathan also spends time researching ideas online.

When it comes to writing grants, Jonathan starts with a letter of inquiry, expressing interest and asking for support. He will then write a proposal brief before potential donors ask for more information and write up a contract or agreement stating terms of understanding. He keeps track of what donations are given, how long the funding will last, how they want impact to be measured and reporting expectations.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in development planning in Ghana, Jonathan did development work as a civil servant for the local government. He quit his job to pursue his Master’s of Arts in development and government in Germany, and upon returning to Ghana, found that there was a hiring freeze placed on most government jobs.

Jonathan grew up in Winneba and had heard of Challenging Heights, so he decided to give back to his community as a volunteer as he searched for full-time employment.

“I learned the spirit of volunteering from my time overseas,” says Jonathan. He appreciates what Challenging Heights does to help those who cannot help themselves. His favourite part about his job is the insight he gains for working for humanity. He knows that procuring grants is an integral part of non-profit work as we work to solve societal problems.

Now, he says, he would encourage fellow Africans to consider volunteering their time to gain experience. Jonathan says people can’t sit at home expecting for someone to call with an opportunity when they can be proactive.

“Volunteering opens doors for you to get a permanent job.”